LUCAS, LARRY FRANCIS

Name: Larry Francis Lucas
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Army
Unit: 131st Aviation Company,
223rd Aviation Battalion,
17th Aviation Group 
Phu Bai Airfield, South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 29 April 1940 (Ashland, KY)
Home of Record: Marmet, WV
Date of Loss: 20 December 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 164139N 1061451E (XD330460)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1A "Mohawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: Capt. Joseph L. Kulmayer (rescued)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   The Grumman OV1C Mohawk arrived in Vietnam in 1962 with various models serving continuously throughout the war. It became an increasingly familiar sight from one end of Vietnam and Laos to the other. This twin engine aircraft was handy when only short, rough runways were available and ground units needed almost instantaneous photo coverage. Gradually increasingly effective sensors and radar were produced including side-looking aerial radar (SLAR). Further, surveillance techniques using infrared detection equipment and a forward-aimed camera proved especially useful since the communists relied heavily on darkness to conceal their activities. The Mohawk also had the ability to carry both offensive armament and defensive weapons. This made the sturdy OV1C not only an excellent FAC and intelligence gathering aircraft, but one which could give close air support to ground troops in need of assistance.

On 20 December 1966, Capt. Larry F. Lucas, pilot; and Capt. Joseph L. Kulmayer, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an OV1A Mohawk (serial #63-13123) in a flight of two that departed Phu Bai Airfield on a mid-morning visual reconnaissance mission to locate enemy activity along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Their mission identifier was Foxtrot.

This area of eastern Laos was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

At approximately 1020 hours, Capt. Lucas' Mohawk was struck by enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire in the vicinity of the #2 engine, causing a fire in that engine. The aircrew attempted to extinguish the fire by using the built in extinguisher. The wingman saw flames coming from the area of the main fuel cell and told Capt. Lucas to eject. At this time the aircraft pitched into a ninety degree dive. The wingman saw Capt. Joseph L. Kulmayer safely eject the stricken Mohawk. He did not see a second ejection. The OV1A exploded upon impact with the ground and was engulfed in flames that completely consumed it in the rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 5 miles southwest of Muang Xepon and 16 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated. Joseph Kulmayer, who immediately established radio communication with his wingman and SAR personnel, was recovered without incident. During his debriefing, the co-pilot reported Larry Lucas was uninjured and had his hand on the overhead canopy release handle in preparation to eject himself at the time he ejected. The wingman reported he did not see a second person leave the damaged Mohawk even though it was visible to him from the time it was hit until it crashed and burned. When no contact could be established with the missing pilot, Larry Lucas was declared Killed in Action/Remains Not Recovered.

Larry Lucas is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.